LOOKING DOWN

LOOKING DOWN

I thought I’d try reverse-psychology. I didn’t know what else to do. I’d been watching him for ten minutes. He was on the edge looking down. His shoulders slumped with the view. He looked like a statue. It looked like he wasn’t breathing. He would have made a great mime. I looked down and saw nothing. I looked back up and saw him transfixed. He couldn’t stop looking. I wondered what it would be like. I thought of being there. He was just looking down. That’s all he was doing. I shouted, Hey! His body did not move. I couldn’t stop staring. It was like watching the start of a car-crash. I didn’t know what to do or say so I shouted at him that it was a nice day for a swim. He didn’t respond. He just remained staring. He couldn’t hear a word. He was looking down. He was looking for something down there

It was a cool southerly and it was giving me goose bumps and making my hair stand on end. I wondered what I could say or do. I tried to imagine myself on the edge. I could. I imagined the last moments. I knew there was nothing to say or do. He wouldn’t hear me. I thought I would ask him something silly. I asked him where could I get a bucket full of eels at this time on a Sunday? He didn’t move. He just looked down. His eyes were full but he didn’t cry. I didn’t even see him blink. I wondered what it must be like, on the edge. I wondered if I could bring him back. I asked, do you ten-pin bowl? The wind carried my question down past his ears but there was no response. He didn’t even flinch. I said, Oi, droopy draw’s, how about you and me go get an ice cream? I thought that would make him smile. He did not smile

He hadn’t said a word. He hadn’t heard a word. He ignored me like I didn’t exist. I wanted to get close to him but was afraid of being closer. A young boy wearing his cap backwards was riding past on his BMX. He stopped and asked me what the man was doing? I think he’s going to jump, I told him. Well why doesn’t he, he asked? I don’t know, I said. The boy threw his bike to the ground and ran up behind the man. Hey, the young boy yelled, why don’t you just jump? Shhh, I told him, you don’t say that sort of thing to a man on the edge. The young boy told me to fuck off and that I should jump too. I gave him the finger and told him I hoped he got flat tyres. The boy picked up three small rocks and threw them at me. Two of them missed as I flung my head back to avoid them. The third rock went up my nose. I inhaled then coughed as a reflex. The third rock flew out of my mouth covered in saliva and hit the pavement. The boy laughed and pointed at me then biked off

He was still on the edge looking down. I reached my hand out to pull him back. I stopped before I reached him. It seemed sanctimonious so I withdrew my hand. He didn’t see my hand. He would never see my hand. I know what it’s like, I said. He flinched and his head lowered before it rose. Nobody knows what it’s like, he said. The answer struck me dumb. He was right. Nobody will ever know. I wanted to know. His head lowered lower. He was standing on the edge. I thought and thought what to tell him. I said, we should go get a beer. I’m already drunk, he said. Well let’s go get some women, I said. He did not reply. He looked up at the horizon as he said, I’ve had my women. There is nothing to say to a man on the edge. What could I say…? I asked him a question. I said, you do know everyone’s wanted to jump at some stage of life? I’ve wanted to jump at every stage of life, he replied. There will never be anything to say to a man on the edge. My left hand went to my chin. I thought of physically pulling him off the edge but thought against it. He looked strong. He looked strong enough to pull me over with him

Andrew Stuart Buchanan

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